A woman dances with a man while holding a sign reading “What have we done?” (the name of an anti-apartheid folk song) during a civil society groups march against the recent rise of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, on September 14, 2019, in Johannesburgís Central Business District. – At least twelve people have been killed and hundreds of shops destroyed since the start of September in a surge in attacks targeting foreign-owned businesses in and around South Africa’s largest city. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)
President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to evacuate Nigerians from South Africa is a positive step in the right direction.
Nigerians, indeed, Africans should leave South Africa and not regret it, as a first step towards redressing the unceasing bullying, intimidation, and arrogance of that country against fellow Africans that joined forces to liberate her from the crushing white apartheid regime. African nations should severe diplomatic relations with South Africa as a mark of protest. This land of apartheid should be isolated and let’s watch how it copes with being an island.
Good enough, an uncommon patriotic Nigerian, Allen Onyema, owner of Air Peace, offered to voluntarily evacuate the troubled citizens from South Africa. I must commend all those in the forefront of this operation, namely: President Buhari, Air Peace Management, Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, Ambassador Kabiru Bala, Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike-Dabiri-Erewa, among others. The belated arrest, delay, and harassment of departing Nigerians on highways and airport in South Africa, is of no consequence. It is akin to the pursuit of departing Israel from Egyptian bondage by Pharaoh and his army, which ended in disaster.
As efforts to assuage South Africa, over the years, to halt xenophobia have failed, we must accept that diplomacy has failed and the only option left to Nigeria and the other victim African nations are to take drastic measures to redress the black discrimination. This problem may be resolved in the long run but for now, only counter drastic measures are needed to redress the insults in the spirit of reciprocity. Nigeria remains a great nation even in the midst of a crisis.
When diplomacy fails in international relations, what is the next option? Is it to succumb and be on the receiving end or to fight back to defend your sovereignty? I think no nation would like to just surrender to intimidation no matter where it is coming from.
I will focus this comment on Nigeria because of the other African nations may be better off, as not many of their citizens are migrating or found everywhere, unlike Nigerians that are found all over the world. Nigeria is the topmost migrant country in Africa, according to the Pew Research Centre.
As the most populous country in Africa with huge resources that should earn her honour and respect on the international arena, Nigeria should assert her undeniable superiority in sub-Saharan Africa by doing the needful in the face of the assaults on her citizens and threats from South Africa:
First, is to make the home base conducive for citizens to stay and contribute to national development, instead of running away to other countries where they are antagonised, killed and their businesses destroyed. This may be a long-term solution but I have put it as first to show it is an important and critical factor, responsible for the mass migration of Nigerians.
The home front is unconducive and unbearable. This is sending able-bodied young men and women out of the country, en masse, to seek for the so-called greener pastures, even where the grasses have dried up. The government should kill the push factors that fuel the mass migration of our youths and turn them to pull factors to draw people back to Nigeria. Gone were the days when Nigerians studied abroad and returned home after graduating to take up jobs at home.
The Jewish wise King Solomon says, “Do not set foot in your neighbor’s house too often. Otherwise, he will see too much of you and hate you,” Proverbs 25:17. Granted that there is freedom of movement and there are international laws and treaties supporting that, it is not wise that people should be profiled or known to be found everywhere around the world. And some exhibit unnecessary flamboyancy that attracts the envy and hatred of the host nation people and makes them a target of attacks. Leave when your life is in danger.
The Greatest Man that ever lived, Jesus, sent His disciples on missionary work and charged them saying, “Whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them,” Mark 6:11. People should not stay where they are not wanted.
If men who went on missionary work could be antagonised, how much more those who went to do business and make money? The simple advise when you are antagonized and assaulted is to leave the place. Nigerians/Africans should leave South Africa.
The opportunity offered by Air Peace is golden, which should not be missed. Other patriotic citizens of the other countries should send planes to evacuate their citizens. Going by the bitterness South Africans are harboring against Nigerians, anyone who remains there is on his/her own. My people say the stubborn grasshopper rests in the belly of a bird.
The second thing Nigeria should do is to escalate the problem. I mean escalate the crisis the same way South Africa has done with a view to de-escalating it at the appropriate time. Breaking diplomatic relations with South Africa is the first thing that should have been done. Too many government officials and other prominent citizens frequent South Africa as if it is their paradise.
I don’t see an end to xenophobia in South Africa soon. The day I read an unconfirmed social media speech by the incumbent President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, that what is happening is part of his electioneering campaign promise, I realised that there would be no end to the crisis. Ramaphosa had reportedly promised during electioneering to “bring to an end” those who arrived their townships and set up businesses illegally.
Besides, after the horrendous rampage, killings, burning and destruction of businesses belonging to Nigerians and other Africans, the Deputy Minister of Police to the President in South Africa stoutly defended the rampage, rather than suing for peace; showing that the xenophobia is officially sanctioned by the authorities. What else is anyone looking for as proof?
Dr. David Oyedepo, General Overseer of the Living Faith Church (aka Winners), in his book, Anointing for Breakthrough, said that the only way to deal with the Devil is to attack him. He admonished that one should not be on the receiving end when the Devil is attacking you and don’t let the Devil know that he is causing you great pain. He said, then, if he is sitting on your head and you are complaining, he will press you harder to break your neck.
Nigeria should not be on the receiving end but should launch a counteroffensive. It was Winston Churchill, the British World War II prime minister, who said, if you want peace, you must prepare for war. No amount of dialogue would solve this problem without a corresponding, even harsher actions against South Africa.
Good enough, Nigeria announced a boycott of the World Economic Forum (WEF) held in Cape Town. Instead of remaining in solidarity with the country, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, reportedly went, for flimsy reasons, and unconfirmed social media reports showed the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam El-Rufai with the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in a picture taken from South Africa. If that is true, it was most unpatriotic from unexpected individuals. I felt disappointed.
What would make any American citizen go to a country that the United States has boycotted?
Like the Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Adam Oshiomole canvassed, Nigeria should nationalise all South African businesses in the country and Nigerians should shun South African goods. When you meet force with force, the two parties would seek a common ground to resolve the issue. After thunder comes rain. After the storm, there is calm. Meet force with force and the whole thing would be settled once and for all. Only then would xenophobia stop, if at all it will.
Except this is done, if Nigeria continues to paper the issue on the strength of an outdated Africa-centred foreign policy, South Africa will never relent in dealing with Nigerians. This is because at no point has South Africa mentioned or appreciated the critical role played by Nigeria, as a key frontline state, in the fight against apartheid.
The rainbow republic got her independence in 1994 and birthed hatred against Nigeria and fellow Africans. Ever since I traveled to Johannesburg and Swaziland in 1996 on the invitation and was confronted with antagonism, I made up my mind never ever to go to South Africa again.
Nigerians, I repeat, and indeed, other Africans should boycott South Africa and let’s see how it would make it by being an island. A single tree cannot make a forest, is a popular Nigerian proverb.
By Luke Onyekakeyah